Known as the “Root Beer Capital of the World,” Gulfport has plenty to offer soda enthusiasts and angling aficionados alike. And if you’re a fan of both of these things? You’ve hit the jackpot! With shallow marshes and the mighty Gulf providing rod-bending action, a Gulfport, Mississippi fishing adventure will definitely have you craving a refreshing, ice-cold beverage.
Tasty root beer isn’t all this city has to offer, though. Located smack-dab in the heart of the “Fertile Fisheries Crescent,” Gulfport has a rich fishing history that’s well deserved. It’s also made a name for itself as one of the Gulf Coast’s top tourist destinations, thanks to its 6.7 miles of sandy white shorelines and beachfront casinos. Although the on-land opportunities are exciting, we think that Gulfport’s underwater action is even better!
Whether you’re looking to cruise shallow waters for world-famous fish, drop lines around a smorgasbord of reefs and wrecks, or explore underwater canyons offshore, Gulfport has something to offer everyone. Before you grab your rods ‘n’ reels, you probably want to delve a little more into this Mississippi hotspot’s fishing scene. We’ve got you covered! Read on to find out where, how, and why you should cast a line here…
What can I catch in Gulfport?
Ah, the ultimate question. The sheer number of fish species that inhabit Gulfport’s inshore waters is something that draws anglers here year-round. The city’s proximity to the reefs, wrecks, and canyons of the Gulf means that, if you’re willing to travel further offshore, the number of potential targets only grows in size – much like the fish themselves! Below, we’ve highlighted some of our favorite catches for you.
The marshy inshore waters and barrier islands of Mississippi’s Gulf Coast are a real Redfish magnet, and there’s no better place to experience the “Red rush” than Gulfport. In fact, Reds are so plentiful here that, while you can hook ’em year-round, the migration of huge spawning fish in fall has been termed “Red October.” During this month, it’s common to hook Redfish weighing 20–30 pounds!
Gulfport’s waters are so Redfish-filled that local anglers say they often appear to take on a red tint. Whether this is true or simply a legend, it’s worth visiting and deciding for yourself! Even if it turns out to be false, the Redfish battle you’ll get to experience will make it all worthwhile. They put up a serious fight at the end of a line. Fish for them Gulfport-style by using light tackle and live bait, and get ready to hold on tight…
From one inshore favorite to another, it’s time to switch our focus to Speckled Trout. Although they inhabit the same waters as Redfish, the angling action you’ll get to experience is pretty different. While battling Reds generally requires some previous fishing experience, Specks are the perfect opponent for brand new anglers and families looking to get a quick introduction to Gulfport fishing.
That doesn’t mean they aren’t seriously fun to catch, though! The magic of Speck fishing is that once you hook one, more are almost guaranteed to follow. Copy Gulfport’s local anglers and target these fish with light tackle and live bait – they’re especially drawn to shrimp. They’re most plentiful during fall, with October and November being especially Speck-filled, but they inhabit Gulfport’s waters year-round. Come and stock your cooler!
Looking for a Gulfport fishing trip that’s seriously memorable? Why not go after a species that’s earned a name for itself as a notorious underwater predator? Yep, we’re talking about Sharks – the Blacktip Shark in particular. This species has become a popular target due to its accessibility, as well as the action it provides at the end of a line. Join local Gulfport anglers in targeting this fish on light tackle, and you’ll see what the fuss is about!
Although they inhabit inshore and nearshore waters year-round, Shark fishing in Gulfport is best during late fall. Handling these toothy predators might seem unnerving, but you don’t have to be an expert angler to battle ’em. Just be prepared for rod-bending action! A top tip from local captains is to fish behind shrimping boats as they cast their nets. Blacktips are drawn to the commotion, as well as the tasty crustaceans caught up in the nets!
Cobia are so popular along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast that they’ve earned a unique nickname – “Lemonfish.” And why are they so popular? Well, they’re as inquisitive as they are hard fighting. This means that finding one at the end of your line doesn’t just result in a battle of strength, but wits too. Cobia are known to keep the fight going even when landed on a boat, so if it’s exhilarating action you’re after, make Lemonfish your target!
There’s nothing quite like navigating Gulfport’s coastal waters, dropping lines around underwater structure, and feeling the hit of a Lemonfish. How do you get ’em to hit? Local anglers are quick to stress the importance of diversity. Don’t feel as though you have to stick to one method or type of bait – mix it up, and keep those lines moving! Jigging lures and then live bait is a common way of luring them to your boat, though.
Up until now, we’ve focused on the action you’d find on a Gulfport fishing adventure that takes place either inshore or nearshore. What about you offshore fishing fanatics? What’s on offer for you here? Two words: DeSoto Canyon. And, actually, Mississippi Canyon – and a whole host of other underwater drop-off points that are home to some of the best deep sea fishing along the entire Gulf Coast.
They’re also home to some of the world’s most famous Billfish. Gulfport’s offshore canyons offer up Sailfish and Blue Marlin, with trolling being the most popular technique to hook them. Nothing quite beats spotting the sail of your chosen species slicing through the water as you try to reel ’em in. You’ll have to invest some time into traveling to reach the hotspots – but the ensuing battle makes it more than worth it!
…And the Rest!
Anglers looking to experience a Gulfport fishing adventure have so many options to choose from that naming every species here would take a lot of time – and plenty of words, too! Think book rather than blog. We’ve highlighted our favorites above, but it’s by no means an exhaustive list.
Gulfport is also home to the king of the reefs, Red Snapper. They’re subject to strict open-and-closed seasons, though, so book your trip well in advance. Around the reefs, you’ll find Amberjack, Kingfish, and Snapper and Grouper species. Offshore, Billfish are joined by Wahoo, Mahi Mahi, and Yellowfin Tuna. Inshore enthusiasts can hook into even more tasty table fare, with Flounder joining Redfish and Specks to make the “Big Three.”
How can I fish in Gulfport?
From a Boat
Although Gulfport, Mississippi’s fishing opportunities are diverse, the most popular way to explore all of ’em is aboard a boat. Basically, local Gulfport charter captains will take you anywhere you want to go to get your fish on. Whether that involves cruising shallow waters and hopping out to wade fish for Specks and Reds, or making the journey all the way out to the offshore underwater canyons, they’ve got you covered.
Something that does differ, however, is the type of boat you’ll be traveling on. Stick inshore, and you’ll likely hop aboard a flats vessel or skiff, perfect for navigating marshy waters and shallow shorelines. Head to the reefs, wrecks, rigs, and canyons further out, and you’ll need something with a little bit more power! Luckily, Gulfport’s reputation as a top fishing destination means that you’re never short of charters to choose from.
From a Kayak
It wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that kayak fishing is all the rage along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. After all, its abundance of shallow, marshy fisheries means that it’s practically built for this method of angling! And with Biloxi Marsh located just a stone’s throw away, Gulfport is one of the top places to test your skills from a kayak. What could be more dreamy than guiding yourself around these waters, looking out for incredible fish, rod in hand?
One thing to bear in mind – although kayak fishing might seem simple, it actually requires a fair amount of skill. Not only do you need to be capable of navigating a kayak, but you also need to be able to cast a line and keep an eye out for your target fish. This is especially true if you’re indulging in that popular Mississippi inshore technique of sight fishing! If you’re up to the challenge, however, it’s the perfect way to explore this fishery.
From a Pier
Or a jetty, or under a bridge, or the beach…yep, it’s fair to say that a state-of-the-art vessel isn’t necessary to enjoy Gulfport’s many fishing opportunities! All you need is rods, reels, enthusiasm, and your own two feet. Although you won’t be able to hook a huge Marlin without a boat, you’ll still have plenty of choice when it comes to the fish on offer. The inshore trio of Redfish, Speckled Trout, and Flounder is a common on-foot target, for one.
It’s common to “follow the fish” when fishing on foot in Gulfport, as chances are you’ll have to move around at short notice. However, local anglers are always on hand to offer tips and recommend targeting areas with surface debris and lots of birds flocking nearby. Focus your attention around rock pilings and sandbars, too, and you’ll often have a productive day of fishing on your hands – all without departing from land!
Where can I fish in Gulfport?
- Biloxi Marsh: After tailing Redfish, tasty Specks, freaky-looking Flounder, or any number of other famous inshore fish? Biloxi Marsh’s murky waters are the perfect habitat for a whole variety of fish species. Jump in your kayak or cast off on one of the many charter vessels that explore the area.
- Cat Island: Located around 8 miles from Gulfport, this barrier island is the perfect place to fish if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s home to large Speckled Trout, as well as various Shark species, including the Blacktip. And if you want to wade fish or cast a line from your kayak, you couldn’t pick somewhere better.
- Gulfport Small Craft Harbor: Also known as Gulfport Municipal Marina. This harbor boasts multiple fishing piers, boat launches, and a bait shop. It also provides direct access to the inshore waters of the Gulf, where you’ll find Redfish, Flounder, Sheepshead, and even Tripletail.
- Bay St. Louis: Want to spend the day kayaking and fishing? Want to stock your cooler with Specks? Or maybe come face-to-gills with notorious Blacktip Sharks? Make the short journey to Bay St. Louis. Around 20 minutes from Gulfport, its tranquil serenity feels like a whole ‘nother world.
- The Nipple, the Elbow, and the Spur: You’re probably wondering if we’re still even talking about fishing! What do these three things have in common? To put it simply, they’re the nicknames for the most lucrative fishing spots in DeSoto Canyon. Cast off with an experienced Gulfport captain and, when you drop these names, they’ll know exactly what you mean.
What else do I need to know?
Some anglers would say that a Gulfport fishing excursion isn’t complete without taking advantage of one of the tournaments on offer here. The Mississippi Gulf Coast Big Game Fishing Club has a variety of tournaments on offer, which take place in spring and fall and target various species. There’s a ladies Kingfish/Cobia entry, a Billfish tournament, and plenty more.
In addition, nearby Biloxi offers up the Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo. It runs the gamut from kids’ tournaments to Billfish battles, to crowning freshwater and saltwater fishing “kings” and “queens.” Why not come see how you measure up against Gulfport’s enthusiast anglers? You could even become Mississippi fishing royalty!
Rules and Regulations
Fishing legally in Gulfport, MS is pretty simple. Any angler age between 16–65 needs to be in possession of a valid fishing license, which can either be purchased from a bait and tackle shop or the Mississippi Department of Wildlife and Fisheries website.
If you’re fishing aboard a local charter, they’ll generally cover your license for you. Fishing on foot, or launching from a kayak? Whether or not you’ll need a license depends on where you’re fishing, as some piers have a license that covers all visitors. It’s best to check with the organization behind the individual pier or launch point that you’ll be using.
Gulfport, Mississippi Fishing: Variety is the Spice of Life!
There’s marshy inshore waters. There’s nearshore reefs, wrecks, ‘n’ rigs. And there’s deepwater offshore canyons. It’s fair to say a Gulfport fishing adventure is, at its core, all about diversity. What else would you expect from a location that’s just as famous for its love of a particular soda as it is for its beachfront casinos and shimmering blue waters?
People have tried to pin down this city’s defining trait but, the truth is, Gulfport is much more than just one thing. It’s a budding tourist destination. It’s a haven for root beer fans. And it’s also a world-class fishery! Grab your rods and reels, and come discover it for yourself.
Have you ever been fishing in Gulfport, Mississippi? Any tips or tricks to share? Let us know in the comments. We always love hearing from you!